3 Areas Pastors Can't Ignore to Lead the Church Effectively

leadership May 26, 2022

The work of a pastor is part preacher, part theologian, part counselor, part strategist, part administrator, and part leader.

And while you may not enjoy the comparisons of leading a church to organizational leadership, there is one inescapable reality: an organization is “a group of persons organized for some end or work,” and whether you like it or not, a church is an organization. It’s more, yes, but it is an organization.

The work of a pastor includes leadership—organizational leadership even.

In my experience, there are three areas pastors can’t ignore to lead the church effectively. And, in turn, these are also three areas that church boards or leadership teams can’t ignore to lead the church effectively.

1. Alignment 

Most churches lack alignment because they lack direction. Because without direction, alignment is impossible.

Most churches are dying or plateaued and one of the reasons they are is because they’re not moving. They’re just boats in the middle of the water without an engine and a rudder. Oh, and they either haven’t found the oars or they’ve found them but no one has picked them up yet (they wouldn’t know where to go if they picked them up).

Because their leaders stopped leading a long time ago. 

Instead, what pastors (and their leadership teams) must do is:

  • Pray for direction
  • Start moving
  • Invite others to move with you

In my first year as a lead pastor, I spent a solid nine months emphasizing the importance of Christ-centered community. I preached seventeen weeks on ecclesiology and one of the threads that was present throughout was that we are better together.

About seven months in, we began laying the groundwork to launch Community Groups by training leaders. Up to that point, we didn’t have much of a strategy for discipling people. So this was a vital piece to our direction moving forward. 

And because we spent so much time pointing people to the vitality of living in community, 65% of our adults joined Community Groups when we launched them. 

We created alignment around how we were going to operate as a church. Today, Community Groups are pivotal parts to how we measure success as a church.

Eventually, if you call First Church of Christ in Bluffton, Indiana your church home, it will be weird if you’re not in a Community Group. 

Because when alignment happens, the culture of the church changes.

Here are some questions to consider to self-diagnose whether or not you are creating alignment: 

  • Do I and our leadership team have a picture of what we’re going after a church over the next 3-5 years? [we can call this Vision]
  • Do we have practical steps that we must take over the next 3-5 years to see that vision come to pass? [we can call this Strategy]
  • Are we communicating these things to the congregation on a regular basis? Do they also know where we’re headed? [we can call this Communication]
  • Are people following our lead in what we’re inviting them to do? [we can call this the essence of Alignment]
  • How are we helping people connect to the mission of the church and the purpose of their lives? [we can call this Creating a Missionally Aligned Culture]

2. Discipleship

Discipleship. It’s kind of like vision. We talk about it a lot in the church, but it remains an elusive term that lacks definition and, most of all, lacks execution.

In Children’s Ministry spaces, it’s like the phrase, partnering with parents. It’s talked about, but it’s often not happening.

Discipleship is inviting people to surrender to Jesus and teaching them to obey everything King Jesus is commanding them to do.

There. We have a working definition. So how can we make sure that we are doing discipleship in our churches?

I think it’s helpful to think of discipleship in terms of levels when it comes to actually executing it church-wide.

Level 1 Discipleship

Level 1 discipleship involves three basic but pivotal things that start with you:

  1. Preach great sermons.
  2. Invite people to serve.
  3. Invite your leadership team to meet with you on a regular basis in order to read Scripture and obey Jesus together. This goes beyond your regular meetings.

Level 2 Discipleship

Level 2 discipleship implements part of Jesus’ model for discipleship into the life of the church:

  1. Preach great sermons.
  2. Invite people to serve and help them discover their Spiritual Gifts.
  3. Train small group leaders to lead biblical discussions that call for surrender and obedience to Jesus.
  4. Invite the congregation to join a small group. Talk about it all the time.
  5. Provide your small group leaders discussion guides that are thematically related to the great sermons on Sunday.
  6. Continue meeting with your leadership team, pouring into them and obeying Jesus together. 

Level 3 Discipleship

Level 3 discipleship implements Jesus’ full model for discipleship into the life of the church:

  1. Preach great sermons.
  2. Continue pouring energy and resources into small groups, emphasizing their importance on a constant basis.
  3. Turn your meetings with your leadership team into a more intentional discipleship time. Make it a 12-18-month journey which includes a Bible reading plan, verse memorization, additional books to read, and monthly gatherings which allow space to get under the surface, practice accountability, and, ultimately, grow in surrender and obedience to Jesus. At the end of the journey, here’s the expectation (and you communicate this before you start): they will each find 3 other people that they will do this same process with. At the end of that next 12-18-month period, the expectation is the same for the people they’re leading. They will also multiply. And so on and so forth. 

If you want to talk more about how you can create a discipleship path and process in your church with a plan for moving from each level to the next, reach out to me on Twitter. I’d be happy to chat.

3. Communication

Oh, the proverbial communication conversation. No matter how well you do it, someone will think you’re doing it poorly.

When it comes to communication, what you communicate and how you communicate are both vitally important. 

Allow me to encourage you with what should be your primary pieces of what you communicate.

Too many churches only communicate what events are happening. That’s a mistake. 

Instead, churches should spend more time communicating these things:

  • What their vision is
  • What their values are
  • What steps people can take to follow Jesus (discipleship pathway)
  • What the mission is
  • What God is doing in the lives of their people (share stories, friend)

The how of communication is deep and involved.

To do communication well, you must combine the channel of communication with channel-relevant strategy and skill.

Here’s a quick list of various channels of communication that churches can use:

  • Offering talks in service
  • Next steps time in service
  • Videos in service
  • Emphasis within the sermon in service
  • Social media posts
  • YouTube videos
  • Podcasts
  • Website
  • Email newsletter
  • Text messages
  • Small Group material
  • Snail mail

You get the idea. It’s a lot.

But at the end of the day, to do communication with missional purpose, make sure that no matter the channels your church uses, the what of communication is right.

What would you add?

I’m curious, what would you add to this list? Let me know on Twitter or join my private Facebook group for pastors and join the discussion.

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